In S. Veeragoudar Harrell (Chair & Organizer) and S. Barab (Discussant), Virtually there: Emerging designs for STEM teaching and learning in immersive online 3D microworlds. Symposium in P. A. Kirschner, F. Prins, V. Jonker & G. Kanselaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference of the Learning Sciences—International Perspectives in the Learning Sciences: Cre8ing a Learning World (ICLS2008) (Vol. 3, pp. 383-391). Utrecht, The Netherlands: ICLS.
Four research projects used Second Life™, a 3D virtual-world platform, to investigate aspects of technology-enhanced STEM education. These European and USA studies, which differ in their pedagogical-philosophy commitments, theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and target content, critically examine a range of cognitive, affective, technical, and social factors pertaining to the prospects of students’ and teachers’ successful engagement with immersive microworlds. Specifically, each project describes students’ successes and challenges in creating complex virtual artifacts and collaborating in real time with peers and the broader community. The design-based research studies of mathematical and computational literacy present sample student artifacts and discuss the learning they evidence. Collectively, we posit that overcoming the following obstacles could make virtual worlds both effective and exciting learning environments: professional development (technical skill, affective disposition), collaboration with school systems (logistics of access, allocation of resources), alignment with targeted content (harnessing students’ creative divergence), and initial learning curves (issues of teacher-to-student ratio).